In aviation, a tailstrike is an event in which the empennage of an aircraft strikes the runway. This can happen during takeoff of a fixed-wing aircraft if the pilot pulls up too rapidly, leading to the rear end of the fuselage contacting the runway. It can also occur during landing if the pilot raises the nose too aggressively. This is often the result of an attempt to land nearer to the runway threshold.
A tailstrike is physically possible only on an aircraft with tricycle landing gear; with a taildragger configuration, the tail is already on the ground. Some aircraft which require a high angle of attack on takeoff are fitted with small tailwheels (Concorde and the Saab Draken) or tailskids (Diamond DA20) to mitigate the effect of tailstrikes.
Tailstrike incidents are rarely dangerous in themselves, but the aircraft must be thoroughly inspected and repairs may be difficult and expensive if the pressure hull is involved. Inadequate inspections and improper repairs to damaged airframes after a tailstrike have been known to cause catastrophic structural failure long after the tailstrike incident following multiple pressurization cycles.
Examples of notable tailstrikes
Tailstrikes on takeoff or landing:
- Emirates Flight 407
- KLM Flight 4805 Severe tailstrike while attempting to avoid collision in the Tenerife airport disaster.
- Jet Airways Flight 70 (Mumbai-Bangkok), suffered a tailstrike during take off from Mumbai. Aircraft safely returned to Mumbai.
Improper repairs after a tailstrike that resulted in catastrophic structural failure in a later flight:
- Preventing tailstrike at takeoff, Airbus Safety Lib
- Boeing definition of Tailstrike
- Tailstrike in Airbus Safety lib Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Jet Airways flight suffers 'tail strike' - The Economic Times". The Economic Times. Retrieved 13 May 2017.